A Short Form of the Examen

Part of my daily prayer is to engage in an examen of consciousness, a prayer in which we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives. This was a prayer that was very important to St. Ignatius and he encouraged all of his followers to make it a part of their daily prayer. (In fact, he asked his Jesuit companions to pray it twice each day.)

I have been including this as part of my daily prayer for at least eight years. There are many methods of doing this prayer; the one I generally do is the one described in this article by Dennis Hamm, S.J., which originally appeared in America magazine. I find it a very helpful part of my day.

During the closing liturgy of a day of retreat and reflection I gave the other day, the priest explained to us a short form of the examen that he uses with his high school students. They do this just before lunch each day. I share it because it seems to me that whether or not one includes a longer examen at the end of each day, this would be a worthwhile exercise to engage in during a break in the middle of our day. His short-form examen has three parts:

Step 1: How do you feel right now? Get in touch with what the feeling is and give it a number from 1-10.

Step 2: Why do you feel that way? What are one or two things that are contributing to the way you are feeling right now? The priest described this as “putting flesh on the number” given in step 1.

Step 3: P&P – praise and petition, or simply – prayer. Pray whatever prayer seems right, whatever you want to say to God given what came up in Steps 1 and 2. Perhaps gratitude…perhaps a plea for some help. Whatever it is, share with God what is going on in you and what you need.

That’s quick and easy enough to work into a mid-day break. Try it.


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